By Monique H. van den Dries, Associate professor, Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, The Netherlands
Social responsibility, in particular the inclusion and development for local communities, is viewed to be a key element of contemporary heritage management projects. UNESCO embraced the concept already decades ago in its various programs and policies, and in its World Heritage Convention. Based on a consultation of the United Nations member states, the Human Rights Council even recommended in March 2011 that concerned communities should be consulted and invited to actively participate in the whole process of identification, selection, classification, interpretation, preservation, stewardship and development of cultural heritage. It suggested UNESCO not to grant inscription on cultural heritage lists or registers without the free, prior and informed consent of the concerned communities. Following this, 1,150 participants from 106 countries that gathered in Paris in November 2011 on the occasion of the 17th General Assembly of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) adopted the Declaration of Principles and Recommendations on the relationship between heritage and development as a directive for heritage conservation, the dissemination of its values, and to the cultural, social and economic development of communities.
Signing up to such directives and good intentions of key players within the heritage management sector is one thing, following them effectively in practice is however something different. Social responsibility therefore deserves monitoring, evaluation and reflection, both on its nature and scope. If we look in particular at the latest nomination dossiers and management plans of nominations that made it to the World Heritage list in 2014, what do these words actually refer to? To what degree are elements of social responsibility included in these documents and do they relate to social inclusion of communities that are or maybe affected by a nomination? This paper presents the results of a content analysis of these state of the art-dossiers.
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